“The Story of the Red Ribbon: Let Us Not Forget”

By George A. Suber, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall ASAP Prevention CoordinatorOctober 28, 2022

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Children listen to a talk about the dangers of drug use at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Child Development Center
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A group of children listen to a talk about the dangers of drug use Oct. 27 at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Child Development Center as part of "Celebrate Life: Live Drug Free" Red Ribbon Week. (Photo Credit: Rachel Everett) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va., -- I am delighted to inform you about the 2023 National Red Ribbon Campaign. This year’s theme is “Celebrate Life. Live Drug Free” ... remembering Kiki Camarena. Red Ribbon Week is the nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention program. It is held the last week of October every year. We will be celebrating a weeklong event Oct. 23-31 with the children at the youth center. This is always a special time of the year for the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall ASAP office and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); a time when communities all around the country come together to raise awareness about the destructive effects of drugs.

We too at JBM-HH feel that this campaign is important and touches the very heart of our base community. This campaign originated in response to the tragic death of DEA Special Agent Enriques “Kiki” Camerena. He was an 11-year DEA Veteran assigned to Guadalajara, Mexico where he was on the trail of the country’s biggest marijuana and cocaine traffickers. Thirty-seven years ago in 1985, he was extremely close to unlocking a multi-billion-dollar drug pipeline.

At 2 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7, 1985, Enrique’ “Kiki” Camarena, headed for a luncheon date with his wife, Mika. Before Kiki could enter his truck, five men approached and shoved him into a vehicle, threw a jacket over his head and sped away. Camarena's body was found a month later in a shallow grave, 70 miles from Michoacan, Mexico. He had been tortured, beaten and brutally murdered.

Special Agent Camarena’s death touched the nation deeply. Americans felt outraged and frustration that more could not be done to end the brutal violence of the drug war. They felt that Camerena’s sacrifice should not be forgotten. To show their respect for his courage and their commitment to take a stand against drug abuse, Americans began to wear a Red Ribbon.

In March 1985, Camerena’s Congressman Duncan Hunter, and high school friend, Henry Lozano, launched “Camerena Clubs” in high schools in the Imperial Valley of California, Kiki’s hometown. Hundreds of club members pledged to lead drug-free lives to honor the sacrifices made by Kiki and others on behalf of all Americans.

In 1988, the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth coordinated the first national Red Ribbon Week, an 8-day celebration proclaimed by the Congress of the United States with President and Mrs. Reagan serving as honorary chairpersons.

Today, millions of Americans across the country and around the world proudly wear a red ribbon between October 23rd and 31st to declare their commitment to suffer no more the loss of even one of our citizens – not a youngster, or a loved one, or another Enrique’ Camerena – to drugs. If anyone is having trouble with drugs, please contact the Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care Clinic (SUDCC) at Radar Clinic (703) 696-3456.